In what seems like the premise for a thousand science fiction paperbacks about childless future societies, a recent online article from Great Britain sheds light on a subculture of British women who proclaim their intentional sterility as a badge of honor.

These women are well-educated, financially affluent and believe with all their heart that they are striking a blow against overpopulation and saving the planet at the same time by joyfully refusing to have children of their own. 

The reader is supposed to think these women represent the future of responsible human habitation of mother earth. 

But instead of seeing them as futuristic oracles of foreboding, I found them much more in line with mid-19th- and 20th-century doomsayers who predicted dire consequences for the world due to overpopulation — famous men of science who were proven, not by theories but by facts, to be spectacularly wrong.

Even the article about these middle- and upper-class British women who have decided to “save” the planet with their refusal to consider bringing new life into it, must mention the father of alarmist science, Thomas Malthus. 

In the 18th century, he predicted the world would soon not be able to keep pace with feeding a growing population and that massive famines would be common in the 19th and 20th centuries, if we were lucky to get that far. 

Yet here we are in 2018,  with several billion more people than Malthus could have imagined and food production continuing to outpace population growth. 

Not to be discouraged by the poor performance of “scientific” predictions, Dr. Paul Ehrlich wrote the 1968 blockbuster book, “The Population Bomb,” in which he predicted most of the people who were alive to read the book in its first edition would not survive the great famines that were absolutely going to happen in the 1970s. 

Ehrlich’s book is a litany of dire predictions that all proved to be either outright false or nowhere near close to actuality. 

Nevertheless, the impact of his book has had long-standing influence on our popular culture and has foisted upon the world a slew of post-apocalyptic Charlton Heston movies — which is probably a crime Ehrlich will never be forgiven for committing. 

What Malthus and Ehrlich never accounted for in their scientific calculations were all the variables inherent in human existence. People find solutions to problems. They sometimes create other problems but then someone comes up with that solution. 

So new kinds of wheat, new ways of transferring solar energy and more efficient ways of processing fossil fuels, has led to abundance and better quality of life for more people around the globe. 

Is the world perfect? Not by a long shot. Do we sit on our haunches and do nothing regarding our environment and its maintenance: only at our peril. But is the earth a lot more resilient and God’s design a little sturdier than a lot of people, even with a lot of initials at the end of their names, propose? Absolutely.

The other thing these seemingly bright and intelligent women lack is a sense of the divine. They are dogmatic materialists who have elevated, or denigrated as the case may be, the act of not conceiving into a kind of sacrament. And these women, all married, are the poster “children” of everything Pope Paul VI warned about in “Humanae Vitae”(“On Human Life”) and which have sadly come to pass. 

On married love, Pope Paul stipulated, “It is a love which is total — that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience.” 

These British women have talked themselves into believing they are saving the planet, but there is no doubt they and their husbands live the kind of life Pope Paul warned about: solely at their convenience.  

It is a convenience translated into self-assured young women who seem to have their lives ordered in a very sensible and structured manner, which made me think of another situation not so finely tuned. 

It’s the story of a man who always wanted a grocery store of his own. Taking a small inheritance from his father, he was able to follow that dream with the Big Tree Market in Simi Valley.  But despite working seven days a week and 14 to 16 hours a day, his dream not only got deferred, it got folded, spindled and mutilated.  

He went broke, lost his store, lost his savings and was so physically and emotionally spent he couldn’t work at all for a while. He had nine kids to support and things looked grim.

My dad didn’t know much about saving the planet, though he always admonished us to leave our campsites cleaner than we found them, and he didn’t read any books about how terrible the 1970s and beyond were going to be. 

He trusted God. My mom trusted God, and by already having nine children they had already jettisoned notions of their own convenience.

So even as they suffered with financial insecurity and a not-so-certain future, they lived “Humanae Vitae” before there was a “Humanae Vitae” and for that, as that inconvenient “baby” born out of that trust, I will always be thankful … maybe I’ll save the planet.


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Highlights

This article is one of a series included in a special issue of Angelus Magazine commemorating the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, “Humanae Vitae.” 

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